Does Baseball Promote the Use of Smokeless Tobacco?

I grew up going to baseball games, specifically Dodger games, but this blog post is not about which baseball team is the best. (Go Dodgers!) Many of my friends growing up, including my little brother, played baseball.  I spent countless evenings at the little league field and at my high school baseball field watching my friends play. Our high school team even made it all the way to the championship my senior year and I watched them play at Angel’s Stadium.

Unfortunately, many of my friends who played baseball in high school picked up a horrible habit before turning 18.  They developed an addiction to smokeless or chewing tobacco.  They would use smokeless tobacco while playing baseball and eventually on a more regular basis. Most of them started smoking cigarettes as well. I can only speculate as to why they took up this horrible habit; they saw their favorite major league players using chewing tobacco. 

This addiction to chew has dangerous consequences. On June 16, 2014, San Diego Padre legend, Tony Gwynn sadly lost his battle to mouth cancer at the young age of 54.  He attributed his mouth cancer to the years of using smokeless tobacco products while on the baseball field. In 2011, Major League Baseball (MLB) implemented rules about chewing tobacco but did not totally ban it from being used on the field.  With the death of Tony Gwynn, the issue of chewing tobacco in major league baseball has been brought up again and hopefully MLB will take further actions to help protect youth from starting this deadly habit.

Major league baseball players are role models for children everywhere; especially boys who love the sport or want to become major league baseball players.  When these kids go to games and see their favorite player with a tin of chewing tobacco, the wrong message is being ingrained in these children’s minds.  They grow up thinking chewing tobacco is a part of the baseball tradition because they see their role models using it and it is time for that to change.

-Debra Levi

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